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This ruggedly beautiful island at the southern edge of the Aegean was an Ottoman province from around 1646 for over 250 years. There were Pashaliks in the main cities, based in the vast Venetian fortresses at Heraklion (Iráklio), Chania (Haniá), and Réthymno, where a number of late Ottoman buildings remain. The Arkadi Monastery featured in the Cretan Revolt of 1866, and during World War II was a sanctuary for the Resistance, which was supported by British agents, notably Patrick Leigh Fermor. The island was famous in antiquity as the centre of the Minoan civilisation. Zeus, Father of the Gods, is said to have been born on Mount Ida, and many anceient myths are associated with the island, which flourished in the Minoa era, centred on Knossos, Europe's oldest known city.
Heraklion International Airport named after the island’s famous writer, Nikos Kazantzakis, is the principal airport for the island. It is a 20-minute, €1.50 bus ride to the centre of town.
Buses are inexpensive and frequent, connecting the main towns along the north coast. It is possible to have a day-trip to Santorini. A high-speed ferry leaves Heraklion at 9.30am and returns at 5.30pm, taking a couple of hours each way. But an overnight stay is best if exploring the Minoan site at Akrotiri and the Archaeological Museum in Fira.
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